August 16, 2011 Fenella France Named Chief, Preservation Research and Testing Division
Press Contact: Jennifer Gavin (202) 707-1940 | Donna Urschel (202) 707-1639
Public Contact: Dianne Van der Reyden, (202) 707-5213
Fenella France, lead scientist for preservation research at the Library of Congress since 2007, has been named chief of the Library’s Preservation Research and Testing Division by Deanna Marcum, associate librarian for library services. France has over 20 years’ experience in heritage preservation science, including 10 years working for such federal agencies as the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution and the National Park Service and another decade as a research manager, lecturer and fellow abroad.
France holds a Ph.D and a master’s degree in textile science, as well as a master’s degree in business administration and a bachelor’s degree in commerce from universities in New Zealand and Australia.
“Fenella France is a major asset to this crucial area at the Library,” Marcum said. “She has a prolific publication record and her projects have been featured in many local, national and international journals. Her groundbreaking studies here at the Library of Congress have made her a finalist for the prestigious federal ‘Service to America’ medal in the category of science and the environment,” Marcum said.
France in 2010 made a major discovery concerning the Library’s draft copy of the Declaration of Independence, in Thomas Jefferson’s handwriting with edits by John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. Using hyperspectral imaging equipment, to distinguish discrete layers of ink using various spectra of light, France revealed that Jefferson in the draft declaration initially wrote the word “subjects,” then carefully rewrote over it to make that word “citizens.”
France described that discovery as “a spine-tingling moment … I was processing data late at night and realized there was a word underneath citizens. Then I began the tough process of extracting the differences between spectrally similar materials to elucidate the lost text."
From 2001 to 2007, France was the project and scientific manager for Art Preservation Services in New York, where she developed strategic plans and conducted scientific research for the American Museum of Natural History, the Historic House Trust and Peebles Island, as well as Ellis Island’s Treasures Gallery rehabilitation and the New York Port Authority’s World Trade Center 9/11 Project. She also worked during that time as research manager for the National Park Service’s web-accessible Fiber Reference Imaging Library and served as a textile scientist for the Smithsonian Institution’s Star-Spangled Banner Project, which restored the original United States flag that had flown over Fort McHenry in Baltimore during the War of 1812.
Starting in 1998, France was technical manager of the Star-Spangled Banner Project. While at the Smithsonian and other cultural agencies, she supervised teams of up to 20 conservation professionals, administrators, and scientists for a number of large-scale projects.
From 1989 to 1998, at the University of Otago, New Zealand, France served first as a research fellow and textile-science lecturer and later as research and international postgraduate research manager. In the latter capacity she oversaw a substantial budget and managed work and performance reviews for more than 700 graduate students and technical staff, developing research projects, policies and procedures, as well as course curricula. She also collaborated with the school’s Board of Graduate Studies to implement disciplinary and performance actions involving students, supervisors and examiners.
France has also managed a small business, overseeing budget, performance improvement and regulatory issues, ensuring all nondiscrimination and affirmative-action requirements were met.
“She has a unique blend of experience in science and administration that will contribute to the Library’s management needs, as well as its mission and goals,” said Dianne van der Reyden, the Library’s director for preservation.